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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Theft ring busted by Spokane police yields more than $100,000 in stolen property

By Quinn Welsch The Spokesman-Review

Two pairs of legs poking out from underneath a car led to the discovery of more than $100,000 in stolen property and the arrest of multiple people in what Spokane Police described as a “structured stolen property trafficking ring.”

The bust was a culmination of events that began with a man who was leaving his home in the Audubon Neighborhood for work at around 4:30 a.m. May 17, when he noticed the suspicious legs under a neighbor’s car. He also heard sawing coming from underneath the car and reported to police that it appeared the two people were attempting to remove its catalytic converter. A running pickup truck was parked nearby.

In an attempt to thwart the theft, the man got into the running pickup truck and parked it in Audubon Park, taking the truck keys and leaving them with another neighbor so he could go to work. The man contacted police about the situation who arrived on scene and located the pickup truck.

Tyler G. Larsen, 26, approached police and said the truck belonged to his friend, Vitaliy A. Budimir, 35, who he then called. While waiting for Budimir to arrive, the officers noticed what appeared to be stolen goods in plain view, including tools, purses and an exhaust muffler. Budimir told the officers that his truck had been stolen earlier that morning, but that it was stolen from 1318 Garland Ave.

As police investigated the pickup truck, they discovered stolen catalytic converters, stolen tools, stolen ID cards, debit/credit cards and tools used to remove catalytic converters, according to court documents. Further investigation of the pickup truck found that more stolen property might be at the Garland address.

The officers determined that Budimir and another unknown suspect had attempted to cut and steal the catalytic converter from the vehicle, causing more than $1,000 in damage. They arrested Budimir and Larsen. The two men were both released by the next day, according to police.

Police searched the Garland address on May 25. After police identified themselves, Joshua E. Semenchuk, 22, jumped a fence in the backyard and tried to flee, but police caught him and arrested him on a stolen car warrant.

Police found more stolen property including six catalytic converters, a U.S. Postal Service uniform and an electric bike they returned to its owner.

Catalytic converters are often stolen from vehicles because they can contain precious metals.

Further investigations led to stolen property inside two storage units in North Spokane. Both units contained power tools still in their original packaging, clothing with the tags still on, generators, firearms including an illegal sawed-off shotgun and electrical equipment, according to police. The storage units were rented by Ryan Smith, 30, and Wilma R. Haight, 29.

They were later arrested.

Police also found a set of firefighter gear and wildland firefighter gear linked to a vehicle prowling report from May 8.

A box of tools, a plumbing camera and a speaker linked to a different vehicle prowling report from May 5 were also found .

A search of a hotel room rented by Smith and Haight uncovered $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in money orders, 43 cash gift cards, and fentanyl pills. A search of their pickup truck also led to the seizure of stolen property.

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